Do New York Values Include Justice?

Cuomo’s “3 Amigos” Get Due Process,

But Deny it to Citizens via SAFE Act;

2 Amigos Convicted of Federal Corruption Felonies

1 Conviction Overturned after a Year; Former Federal Prosecutor Preet Baharara Tweets:  “The evidence was strong. The Supreme Court changed the law. I expect Sheldon Silver to be retried and re-convicted.

Governor Cuomo, in a state-of-the-state address, once referred to himself and the top two political leaders in New York State as the “three amigos.”

The other two amigos were Democrat Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver and Republican Leader of the State Senate Dean Skelos.  Two of the three amigos – Silver and Skelos – were subsequently tried and convicted of felony corruption under federal law and sentenced to prison in early 2016.  Skelos was sentenced to five years in prison; Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

More than a year after being convicted and sentenced to prison the two felons have yet to be measured for orange jumpsuits.  These convicted political felons enjoy their constitutional right of “due process,” pending their appeal, after they denied it to citizens.

Then, more than a year after being convicted and sentenced in July 2017, Sheldon Silver’s conviction was overturned by a federal appeals court, based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that “narrowed the legal definition of corruption.”¹

Preet Bharara, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and who prosecuted both Silver and Skelos, said it best on Twitter:  “The evidence was strong. The Supreme Court changed the law. I expect Sheldon Silver to be retried and re-convicted.¹

The current acting U.S. attorney, Joon H. Kim, reinforced this (emphasis added):  “We look forward to presenting to another jury the evidence of decades-long corruption by one of the most powerful politicians in New York State history,” Mr. Kim said. “Although it will be delayed, we do not expect justice to be denied.” ¹

These three amigos rammed through the SAFE Act (Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013) overnight with no public participation — a law which denies due process to an entire class of citizens.

Prior to sentencing, Felon Skelos was so proud of his leadership in pushing Governor Cuomo’s SAFE Act, he used it as part of his plea to avoid prison. 

In Skelos’ Sentencing Memorandum submitted to the court, his attorneys listed the convicted felon’s support for the SAFE Act among his “most notable legislative achievements.”  In that document, attorney and friend Paul Weidenbaum writes that Skelos believed it “was the right thing to do for the people of New York State.” ²

From a constitutional rights standpoint, he should have written, “the right thing to do TO the people of New York State.”  Politicians have forgotten how to blush.

Here we have a convicted felon at the top of the political pyramid in Albany who enjoys the full benefit of due process; and who sought mercy on the basis of the SAFE Act – a law that violates the principles of good government (open, participatory) and denies due process to an entire group of citizens under its umbrella – firearms owners.

Why any fair minded person – liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican – would not want to correct this injustice explains why citizens are fed up with political bosses and dogmatic political theology that break the rules of constitutional balance and fairness.

This is why the 2nd Amendment is about more than firearms.  It is the canary in the coal mine — an early warning system that liberty is dying and it is not limited to 2nd Amendment freedom.  Our constitutional rights are an ecological system – a delicate balance – an infringement on one freedom inevitably invites transgressions on others.  We are seeing this with the SAFE Act.

We need leadership to restore due process — leadership that declares citizens are entitled to as much due process as political elites and convicted felons.  Now that would constitute a set of New York Values of which we can all be proud.

It is up to us.  Organize now for elections in 2018:


¹ Sheldon Silver’s 2015 Corruption Conviction Is Overturned
The New York Times, by Benjamin Weiser, July 13, 2017

² Skelos’ Sentencing Memorandum — submitted as a means to avoid prison, can be found here, as part of a Gannett article:  Skelos points to SAFE Act in bid to avoid prison, Press & Sun Bulletin, by Jon Campbell, March 24, 2016